Impact Examples: Spring Institute


The Spring Institute empowers people and organizations to succeed across languages and cultures. Its Project SHINE helps immigrant and refugee elders navigate our healthcare system and engages them in preventative health activities in their communities.

Brandy Kramer, Project Shine Program Coordinator

Our volunteer, Manley Daniel, had been a Peace Corps volunteer, worked for Save the Children and also for the International Organization of Migrants, so he has a deep understanding of other cultures and immigrant issues.

He started a walking group to bring refugee/immigrant elders together with residents of other communities to get to know each other and for the health benefits of regular walking.

We had a tiny amount of money to start the walking program. Manley did a great job of recruiting the elders – in their communities, walking was required for survival, it wasn’t a leisure activity, so they didn’t jump at the idea initially. He also trained people to become walk leaders so the program will be sustainable. He went out and got donations for the program (water bottles and other small incentives) that made it appealing for people to try it out.

The program has expanded organically as community members (non refugee/ American born) have begun to walk with the group.  Sometimes doctors interested in refugee health, people living in Denver that have always wondered about who the refugees are, city planners, and other people interested in getting more involved with our work. We had never thought of that additional benefit!

Do you have any advice for others considering encore talent?

You’re doing your organization a disservice if you don’t think about boomers as a resource and invest time in recruiting them as skilled volunteers. They have great experience, knowledge and networks that will help you accomplish a lot more than you could without them.

Boomers bring many strengths to volunteer work: their ability to focus on the important things and to create sustainable programs. They meet people where they are rather than imposing their own values. They have extensive networks, and when they’re passionate about your work they’ll reach into their network to tap additional resources. Boomers are tenacious but gracious – they won’t just take no for an answer, they’ll keep trying to find an opening.

We pair boomers with third year medical students in one of our programs. When the boomers share medical experiences from their own lives, the students understand the issues from a personal perspective, not just a classroom perspective.

Do you have any advice for others recruiting encore talent?

These days everyone wants flexibility in volunteer engagements; boomers are very professional about letting us know if they have a conflict, because they know I’m depending on them.

We also build in flexibility in shaping some roles. For instance, I interviewed a volunteer for a position involving caregivers, kids and public health. She wanted to focus on kids and wasn’t really interested in health issues. We found a role that focuses on kids and public health, and she’s been volunteering for us for five years.

Onboarding is important – we offer a two to three hour program orientation, on top of the 30 to 40 hour patient navigation training that’s a prerequisite for all of our volunteers.